A Balance of Aesthetics and Function

February 21, 2018 at 2:30 PM

In times past, woodwork, metalwork and acrylicwork featured on the curriculum in the Jack Paine Centre (JPC) but in recent years, there has been a shift in thinking as the JPC reviewed its practice in response to our changing world. In this world of ‘disruption’ and unprecedented technological advances, there is a growing need to ensure our students are resourceful and resilient when they leave school, ready for a future-unknown. It is no longer enough to just know; tomorrow’s work force needs to be able to apply their knowledge. 

The earlier curriculum was largely focussed on developing the practical skills required for each medium. In more recent years, good design and the ability to problem solve has been given equal footing with learning and applying practical skills, as the students work towards both designing and creating a product. Now embracing all mediums, the Product Design course is diverse, with each year level focussed on the design of innovative products through designerly observation, while developing the practical skills to bring their idea to fruition. 

Last night, the year-long ‘Stand by Me’ project for our Year 10 Product Design students was launched in the JPC. In the past, this group had the opportunity to visit the Homage furniture store in Newmarket but with the growth of student interest in this subject, Homage now brings a display to the College. Parents were invited to attend with the intention that they would work alongside the students on a research task to prepare for the year ahead. 

Homage kindly displayed a diverse range of classic mid-20th century chairs; designs that have stood the test of time and are as popular today as they were over 50 years ago. This year’s Year 10 Product Design assignment requires the students to design and produce a side table that is inspired by a classical chair of their choice. The end result is required to be practical, be matched aesthetically to the classic chair of choice and constructed using the appropriate techniques and procedures. 

Last night the students and their parents were tasked with choosing two of the chairs on display to look at critically, while measuring, taking photographs, making sketches and collecting information on the aesthetics and functionalfeatures of their chosen chairs. In particular, they looked at the material used, the joinery and any special features incorporated. 

The information gathered last night will form the basis of their research as the project gains momentum. With the parents involved from the start, it is hoped they will continue to be actively interested as the students’ work unfolds, culminating in a display of their own work at the end of the year. 

If we are to move forward as a nation of creative and critical problem solvers, design has to be a valued part of our culture. That means investing in education that promotes problem-solving through ‘designerly’ thinking, risk taking and intelligent failure – exactly what Product Technology offers those who take it on.

Our sincere thanks to Kent Hemingway and Dale Clothier from Homage (Newmarket and Takapuna) for their kind assistance with this project.


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